RUBBER FARMERS from Prachuap Khiri Khan set up roadblocks on a key section of Phetkasem Road yesterday in Bang Saphan district and vowed to continue their protest against the government, after it failed to heed their calls for subsidies in order to hike rubber prices.
Heavy congestion caused by the roadblock was eventually eased after the farmers reached an agreement with police and allowed several lanes to be reopened.
It is a second attempt made by around 400 farmers to make their demands heard, after the first roadblock last month was dismantled during violent clashes with police.
Motorists travelling south have been advised to take an alternative route along the coast to avoid long tailbacks on Phetkasem Road. The protest site is located at Si Nakhon intersection not far from Thammarat intersection, which saw scores of protestors and anti-riot police injured during the farmers’ first protest in September. Several police vehicles were also set on fire during the protest.
Police said that yesterday they had arrested three men who were acting as security for the protesting farmers. Officers found a number of home-made bombs and weapons, including slingshots and nuts and bolts, in their possession.
A network of rubber and palm-oil farmers from the 16 southern provinces declared their support for the roadblock yesterday and threatened to escalate the protest if no one from the government met to discuss their demands. In response, Deputy Prime Minister Pracha Promnok arrived in the province at 4pm yesterday, however, as off press time, the outcome of the talks was unknown.
In addition to barricades, a number of trees were felled to block Phet Kasem Road – the main route to the south. Protestors then delivered a series of blistering attacks on the government, criticising it for not delivering a price guarantee that would benefit rubber tappers, and instead granting per-rai subsidies to wealthy plantation owners.
Speeches also attacked the Yingluck administration’s amnesty bill, suggesting that the renewed protests could be politically motivated.
Meanwhile, provincial authorities have submitted a petition to the provincial court asking for an injunction to immediately order protesters to vacate the site. The court is expected to issue its ruling today. Authorities in neighbouring Chumphon province have also called an urgent meeting to discuss measures to halt possible rallies supporting the Prachuap Khiri Khan roadblock.
A number of local opposition Democrats have reportedly told Chumphon governor Pheerasak Hinmuankao that they have no intention of joining the protests.